Couple quits their jobs to travel the country, give tips on how to declutter your life

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By: Joe and Kait Russo

How did you go through the process to declutter your life?

The process to declutter our lives was quite the journey. It started with moving from a three bedroom two bath home about 1,200 square feet into a one bedroom one bath RV about 250 square feet.

The first step was to pull everything out from the closets and storage containers for evaluation.

It was easy to get rid of everything we wouldn't use in the RV such as furniture, extra pots and pans, books, clothes we haven't worn in a long time, tools and gardening equipment. 

After the first round of decluttering, we realized we still had way too much stuff. Moving into a tiny home on wheels is different than moving into a small studio because we have to take into consideration the weight of everything inside.

An RV can only carry so much weight safely so we continued to downsize. We made piles of what we thought was essential and piles of nice to haves. Once we moved in all of the essential items we added items from the nice to have piles.

[YouTube: We're the Russos]

Photos and memorabilia were converted to digital files and a few keepsakes were left with our parents.

What we couldn't fit in the RV was either sold, donated, recycled or thrown out.

Once we made the transition to RV living, we agreed to follow the "one in, one out" rule. If we buy a t-shirt, then we have to get rid of an article of clothing.

A trip to the grocery store meant buying what we needed at the time, not what we think we might need in six months.

Just because there's storage space doesn't mean it needs to be filled. We started to lead a more minimalist lifestyle and made the shift from constantly wanting to acquire things to realizing we can lead a simple happy life with less things and have more experiences.

After five months of traveling around the United States visiting national parks and exploring new states, we decided it was time for spring cleaning.

This was an eye-opening experience for us because we realized we hadn't touched most of the items in the RV. We decluttered again by getting rid of the superfluous things. A funny story we always tell people is that Joe had "lost" some of the socks he packed in the RV.

During our spring cleaning, we opened a drawer and were greeted by all of his "missing" socks! Five months and we never even opened this drawer.

After this round of decluttering and seeing all the empty storage bays and cabinets, we made the decision to start looking for a camper van.

The most challenging part of our decluttering journey was re-evaluating our belongings to figure out what was essential for van life.

The camper van measures 6 feet wide and just under 21 feet long. Subtract the space taken up by the engine, driving compartment and spare tire, we're left with about 90 square feet of living space. Until you live in a van full time, it's difficult to imagine how to find room for all the essential items you need. 

To start, we eliminated anything we hadn't used in the last few months. When possible, we traded items for smaller equivalents.

Our standard sized can opener was donated and replaced with a can opener you might find in a survival kit. There was a shift from how we evaluated the items that we brought.

We started asking questions such as "does it serve multiple purposes?" "Is it something we can borrow?" One mental shift we made was realizing if we need a tool, we can borrow one from a neighbor or pick one up at the store. As long as we have the basics: food, water, shelter, gasoline, we can figure out the rest.

We've been living in the camper van for almost 10 months now and continue to declutter our lives. Some people are surprised to hear us say we can go smaller and get rid of more things. One day you may find us traveling around the world with a backpack.

What process did you go through to decide to live in a camper van and travel around the country? 

With limited vacation and jobs that didn't promote a work/life balance, taking time off was difficult and stressful. In 2015, we took a leap of faith and left our jobs to work for ourselves doing something we both love - travel. Getting to that point took a tremendous amount of planning.

The key for us was purging unnecessary stuff from our lives and gaining financial freedom.

The process to make our dream a reality took over a year and we share that journey in our book Take Risks: One Couple's Journey to Quit Their Jobs and Hit the Open Road.

In sharing our experiences, we hope to inspire others to make a positive change and take a step toward living the life that you want. 

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